Tuesday, March 13, 2012


 I would say don't get me started on what swimming can be like in our pool, but I actually started myself and now I'm on role..so here goes. The attitude in our pool is sometimes deeper than the water and the attitude of a lot of athletes is sometimes more than one can bare. I will never understand the athlete who kills themselves thinking that they have something to prove...even in training. It really is something to marvel and giggle at at the same time. I'm sure some of you know the kind I'm taking about! Cockiness and bad attitude are such unattractive qualities in sport and life and since we are on the heels of another exciting race season, I decided to write about a little thing called attitude.

 As a coach and as an athlete, I see it all the time.....TUDE! Triathletes are renowned to carry around that typical Type A personality, but guess what folks--brace yourself--- not ALL triathletes are super anal. Really! I've been very fortunate to be around some of our sport's many top pro's and I can tell you from my own observations that most of the ones that I have been around do not carry around 'the attitude' that you see seeping out of the pores of some ego driven age groupers. Why is this? Why do the elite succeed where others fall short? Could it maybe be something in their attitude?  Now don't get me wrong, most elites are obviously athletically gifted! DUH! They have certain physical attributes that make them soar and some are lucky enough to be born with these things. Take Rich for example, on top of the athletic gift, he has an amazing attitude...that equals great results. You never see wound up, puffed up energy, let along ego coming out of him on race day or even leading up to it. In fact, he never even mentions the race, I always have to ask how he's feeling because I can never tell. He doesn't act any different on race day than any normal day. He's anxious of course but he uses his energy in the right way and his attitude helps him to achieve.

I used to think that I always had something to prove and the harder I tried to prove something, the more I failed at it. That all changed a couple of years ago. I started to have fun and once I relaxed, I started to do better. I am completely at ease now heading into a race and it makes such a difference for me. I remember before IMKY asking friend Hannah if I was normal. No nerves at all. In KY two days before the race...still nothing, just excitement. The night before the race, still nothing. I talked to Rich about it, was actually confused about it, but turns out I have developed a little something called confidence, self belief and a good attitude. Those are the characteristics that help me to do what I do. On IM race morning I was as calm as if I were going out for a morning jog. Even when things started to go wrong for me throughout the day, my attitude remained positive and upbeat. This makes such a difference. Now don't get me wrong, I have the competitive edge just like most, but I don't go into a race thinking I have something to prove. Why would you do that to yourself and ruin the fun of your sport? I had some nice 2011 victories and new personal bests and I can tell you that I was relaxed and had fun in all of my races last season. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more damage it can actually do. I do believe that having the right attitude in sport can take you places above and beyond what you may ever know.

Attitude is everything..in life and especially when it comes to triathlon and training. Without the right attitude a triathlete may never reach their true potential. The mind is the biggest obstacle to conquer in many cases.  A triathlete must work just as hard to train their mental outlook, as well as their bodies.

A little info that I found on the subject along the way...

Intrinsic Motivation
According to psychological research, the best athletes are usually those that are intrinsically motivated to train. “Intrinsic motivation” means to train solely for the pleasure of training and not for external rewards or praise. An intrinsically motivated triathlete does not measure their success with “beating other triathletes” but is satisfied with what a triathlon provides them with personal goals and accomplishments.

Task v. Ego Orientation
In developing an intrinsic motivation for training, it is important to understand the difference between task orientation and ego orientation. A triathlete who is “task orientated” appreciates the process of learning about themselves and their ability to perform certain tasks. A bad experience will seldom have a negative affect on a task orientated triathletes because they understands that certain experiences are just part of the overall improvement process.

On the other hand, an “ego orientated” triathlete judges their success solely by comparing themselves against other athletes. Ego orientated athletes will often feel tremendous amounts of stress and nervousness before events because they will regard their entire endeavor as a failure if they don’t beat other athletes or do well. This kind of “win or else” attitude is very destructive to a triathletes image and certainly does not lead to “intrinsic motivation” for future training or events.

The Best Attitude
The most successful triathletes have a certain attitude. ( ahem...like I said before) An attitude that mixes ego orientation and task orientation. Sure these athletes want to “win” and compete with other athletes, but they also understand the danger of finding enjoyment only in winning. Although winning is a goal, these athletes are not solely motivated by external forces; rather, they understand that the best way to achieve the goal of winning is to view each event, race or brick as a learning process. Therefore, while they have a burning desire to obtain medals and win, they also have a sincere appreciation for their individual improvement independent of their victories over other athletes. The competitive drive is balanced with a long-term, sustainable outlook for triathletes.

 Being married to a pro triathlete has changed my eyes to everything within this sport. I am very lucky to see it from the inside out and have learned many valuable things. One of the things that I value most is that I've learned that having the right attitude really can make all the difference.

Lunch with Champ & friend of Rich...The Fab Crowie
Swimming w/ a Champ...Rinny

 These two definitely that have the right attitude!! Ah, Good times!

1 comment:

Pamela McGowan said...

Good post Tonya. You hit a really important point often overlooked by some of us age groupers. My biggest challenge isn't so much ego over others versus accepting myself. I frequently get myself overly excited about racing when at the end of the day it is about having fun and being healthy. Thanks for the reminder. I'm going to work on this in 2012!